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New book chronicles state’s history

Mississippi has a storied past, and thanks to the Herculean efforts of many the state’s rich history is told in “The Mississippi Encyclopedia.”

It took 14 years of digging, writing, editing and organizing to put the massive 1,400 page book together. It was published a few weeks ago.

The encyclopedia covers just about everything Mississippi related: blues, politics, Civil War generals. It opens with basketball star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and ends with Zig Ziglar, who grew up in Yazoo City.

“The Mississippi Encyclopedia” also features essays on agriculture, archaeology, the civil rights movement, drama, education, ethnicity, fiction, folklife, foodways, geography, industry, law, medicine, music, myths, Native Americans, nonfiction, poetry, the press, religion, social and economic history and sports, according to the University Press of Mississippi website.

Colleges and universities throughout the state provided ideas for the project, according to The Associated Press. “The project also attracted team members from as far away as England and Finland,” AP reported.

More than 700 scholars wrote entries for the book.

“Contributors came from 33 different states and something like 10 countries,” senior editor Ted Ownby said. “And toward the end, we relied on a lot of graduate students.”

Mississippi is a unique state with a unique history. It likely could have filled thousands more pages. Some of the state’s history makes us proud; some obviously does not. But that’s the beauty of an encyclopedia of the state. It lays bare all the state’s successes, failures and everything in between. A single book couldn’t possibly capture all of Mississippi, but “The Mississippi Encyclopedia” comes as close as any book can.